Book Review: Shipwrecked by Carey Fessler

Have I ever been busy this week! I finished the second book in the middle-grade trilogy I am currently working through. This one was called Shipwrecked: Dragon Island by Carey Fessler. Besides reading, I have been preparing for a weekend trip to Toronto where I hope to visit ECW Press and House of Anansi. These are 2 book publishers that I have been collaborating with. But for now, back to the review.

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Synopsis: The trek has begun, and the trail will show no mercy.

After escaping a rogue submarine, twelve-year-old cousins Emma and Scott wash ashore on the beach of a remote tropical island lurking with jungle dragons and headhunters.

So begins their trek to find safety and civilization so they can return home to their families in Australia–but not before having to fight for their lives across a savage land. Can the young castaways survive long enough to find help?

I find that when I talk to people about trilogies, I am always an advocate for the middle book. It is the same case for this series. I really enjoyed the middle book in this trilogy.

The characters were already fleshed out so you know what to expect in their behaviors and the story picked up right where it left off so it felt like you were watching the next episode of a show in a series.

In this one, they were on what they thought was a deserted island and were trying to find a way to escape and get back to Australia where their families were. Little did they know that this island had more to it than they expected and thus ensued an eventful adventure from one side of the island to the other. This tale is filled with dragons (yes, I said dragons), tribal sacrifices,  and creepy crawly critters.

Emma and Scott further develop in bravery and courage as they are faced with more dire situations. Compassion and trust is something they need to find in themselves if they are to escape this island alive. Brock (one of the mutants) actually becomes likable in this one and I can safely say that I hope there is more of him in the finale to this trilogy.

Overall, I think this was a great middle book for a middle-grade series. It kept it interesting, fun, and engaging with all the predicaments that our main characters kept finding themselves in! And it was a quick read to at only 185 pages!

Book rating: 4.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon or find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review​: Treading The Uneven Road

Bookworms! I have the pleasure of sharing another review with you. This one was called Treading The Uneven Road by L.M. Brown and was published by Fomite Press.

Cover of Threading The Uneven Road

Synopsis: The stories in this linked collection are set in a small village in the Northwest of Ireland in the early 1980’s and 90’s. A bypass around the village has rid them of their once busy traffic. The residents feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later.

The collection is not only about the characters need for salvation but it is about a society that is unraveling. In Amends, we hear about the Bishop who has fathered a child. A priest is beckoned by a dying man to be mocked. The world inside and outside the village is changing. In every story, the characters need to make a choice on how they might carry on.

This book was a breath of fresh air. Not only did it satisfy my craving of travel with its beautiful descriptions of Northwest Ireland and the surrounding landscapes, but it also brought on this feeling of “lust” (not sure if this is the right word) to go there and see it for myself.

A lot of times, I won’t read a synopsis and jump right into a book so that I am completely unprepared and surprised by everything. An example would be to watch a movie without seeing the trailer for the non-readers out there. So I was very excited when I realized that all of these short stories were connected to the next and previous stories and the characters were the same in most of them. It was like revealing a little bit more of the townsfolk piece by piece from different viewpoints.

The story about Patrick was my favorite. He had a rough encounter that left his relationship with his father very tense (I won’t say what it is, no spoilers here). It made me feel for Patrick and just want him to succeed and be happy. The only downfall to this story is that I wanted more of it. It left me wondering if he would be ok and I just wasn’t ready to leave it at that.

All of these stories were just people being themselves and trying to fit into society or be what society wanted them to be. The feelings were raw and powerful and it came through in the way the author wrote about her characters.

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants intricate storytelling of an Irish village and all the components that make up its inner workings. It wasn’t a “WOW this is amazing” book but more of a subtle “wow I quite enjoyed that”.

Book Rating: 4/5

About the Author
L.M Brown is the author of the novel Debris. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines. She grew up in Sligo, Ireland, but now resides in Massachusetts with her husband, three daughters, a dog and a bearded dragon.

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: The Suitcase and The Jar

I had the pleasure of reviewing a book called The Suitcase and The Jar by Becky Livingston. This book was sent to me by a publishing company called Caitlin Press. They are based out of British Columbia and were excited to do this collaboration with me when I approached them back in late October. Sara joined me and read this one as well so we will have 2 reviews below (one from me and one from her).

Synopsis: When a brain tumor takes the life of Becky Livingston’s twenty-three-year-old daughter Rachel, her life takes an unconventional turn. Rachel, an avid traveler, had one wish: to keep exploring the world.

So, for twenty-six months Livingston travels — untethered and alone — to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, India, England, Ireland, and North America, coast to coast. In her suitcase: Rachel’s ashes, heavy but compact. As she gradually merges her daughter’s remains with the elements, Livingston learns how to forge a new sense of belonging in an unfamiliar world.

Is it reckless for a fifty-three-year-old mother to quit her job and set off overseas with no agenda or timeline? Is such a journey squandering a life, or saving it?

Sara’s Review: This book is a memoir of a mother who has lost one of her daughters. She travels the world by house-sitting internationally, and she has brought a jar of her daughter’s ashes with her to leave in the places she finds beautiful. Throughout the book, Livingston reveals, through memories, her daughter’s life and death, as well as how she begins to attempt to piece her life back together after the loss.

This book was a very intriguing read, at first, as the writing is so brilliantly done that it is very easy to understand and empathize the author’s loss. I enjoyed the way we were both observing the loss as well as reading about poignant memories of her daughter before her death. As we learn about and grow with the author as she begins to feel like she can move on, I was particularly intrigued by the realizations and personal growth that was achieved and expressed. The writing in this novel does an excellent job of articulating something as inarticulate as an extreme loss, especially the loss of a child too young.

Through Livingston’s journey of acceptance both before and after her daughter’s death, it is so easy to feel her pain and understand all her feelings and reactions. I really enjoyed being able to experience something like this in such a beautiful and well-composed way, especially as it is a memoir rather than fiction.

Eventually, unfortunately, the book begins to feel like you’ve read it before, in that near the last quarter of the book it seems as though all the feelings have been adequately expressed, and it begins to feel repetitive. Though still beautifully written, you begin to feel like Livingston is just restating what she has already written in slightly changed ways. Although I can’t quite complain about a “character” in a non-fiction book, there were times when I had trouble understanding what comes off as selfishness from the author. Although she suffered the terrible loss of her daughter, she has another daughter whom she completely leaves and loses touch with during her journey, and evidently was too distracted by her sick daughter to ever be close to her second daughter even before the death.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. It was well constructed, I enjoyed the style and the writing, I was able to fully empathize with the author, and the story was beautiful and sad and meaningful. I only wish that it had been about 50 pages more succinct, and then I think that I would be more apt to recommend this book to others.

Sara’s Book Rating: 4/5

My Review: I can honestly say that I have never read a book like this before. It was very unique to see the perspective of the mother throughout her daughter’s slow decline from her brain tumor. Grief can play so many roles in one’s life and Becky had to deal with the loss of her fiance and the loss of her daughter to the same type of tumor. She explains how she dealt with this grief in many different ways and how there is no shelf life for the feeling of loss when someone you spend your life raising dies before you do.

What inspired me was the nomad lifestyle she took on to explore and distribute some of her daughter’s ashes in places all over the world. It helped her in her grieving process and it was a way to fulfill Rachel’s love of traveling in a way she never could. I wish I could go travel the world like Becky did (not under the same circumstances but to be able to see the many amazing places and destinations this world has to offer).

I find at some parts of the book, it gets a bit repetitive but this could be to illustrate the same routine that Becky had to go through while being a mother caring for family members that were terminally ill.

Overall, it was an enlightening book about a mother’s journey to figure out what life has to offer after losing what was most important to her.

My Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can get this book directly from the publisher on Caitlin Press or you can buy it on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by Caitlin Press in physical paperback format to read and give an honest review.

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Christmas Season

It has been a flurry over here at Breakeven Books. We are getting prepared for the holiday season and are busy buying Christmas gifts, baking goodies and finishing up all the projects of the year.

And the best part about the holidays?! More time to read 🙂 I already have a list of 3 books I want to try and finish over the holidays. But I will still be saving time to do the regular Christmas traditions with the family such as driving around looking at Christmas lights with a thermos of cider, listening to Christmas music, and watching Christmas movies (especially It’s A Wonderful Life on December 24th).

via GIPHY

I also get a week off of my full-time job so that is nice. Nothing like a little R&R over the holidays.

Does your family have any holiday traditions that you partake in each year? What are they? Tell me in the comments below 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays bookworms.

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Book Review: The Ambassador Of What

Bookworms! I am super excited to share this review of The Ambassador Of What by Adrian Michael Kelly. This book was sent to me by an amazing publishing company called ECW Press as part of a blog collaboration I reached out to them about doing.

Publishers Weekly recognizes ECW Press as one of the most diversified independent publishers in North America. ECW Press has published close to 1,000 books that are distributed throughout the English-speaking world and translated into dozens of languages.

Synopsis: Slogging through the miles of a city marathon, an eleven-year-old boy encounters small miracles; about to marry one of her patients in a home for the elderly, a nurse asks her estranged son to come to the wedding and give her away; home from university, a young man has Christmas dinner with his hard-up dad in a bistro behind a rural gas bar. Men and boys and maleness, money and its lack, the long haunt of childhood, marriage and divorce — these lie at the heart of The Ambassador of What. Driven by an ear for how we talk, how we feel, how we fail, and how we love, these are tough and tender stories that take hold, and linger.

Honestly, this book was brilliant. It was so real and showed the sides of a family in all their great times and all their struggles. No family is ever perfect and it was refreshing to see that portrayed in these storylines.

The book was completely set in Canada (primarily Ontario) which I loved because this is where I live. I am in North Bay but the book referenced Toronto, Kingston, Sudbury and then other small towns in Ontario. Books that are set in my home country always resonate with me. It’s amazing to have attention being drawn to your home; the place where you have grown and created stories and memories in your lifetime.

It isn’t too long either so it keeps you interested from start to finish. The last part was about a father and son going fishing and it was so similar to how I used to go fishing with my dad. They had the same mannerisms in their preparation for the daily catch and what bait they used (frogs on a hook). I was not a fan of the impaling of frogs on a hook as I was a kid and felt bad for the frogs so I tended to use other styles of bait or the old classic worm and a bobble lure. I felt like I was reading my memory straight out of my brain. Then I had a dream about fishing that night that was so vivid, I felt very nostalgic the next day. A book that can bring out this feeling and emotion in me is one you don’t forget so quickly.

Overall, I would suggest picking up this book for a quick, entertaining read that will bring you back to your roots.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy this book on ECW Press and find it on Amazon and Goodreads!

Sidenote: I am running a fundraiser for our local Food Bank in North Bay to raise money and make sure that families will have something to eat over the holidays. You can donate at this link:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/2243695192532823/?fundraiser_source=external_url

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by ECW Press in physical format to read and give an honest review. 

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Guest Post: Jodi Picoult Interview

Hey bookworms! So I have been connecting with a lot of different bloggers lately and one had reached out to me about the interview she had with Jodi Picoult. I decided I would share her post because it was a good interview and I am sure that many of you know who Jodi Picoult is and would be interested.

But first, a little blurb about Ana!

Ana Milosavic works in marketing in the tech space, and on the side runs a blog that is focused on career growth and journeys and helping others achieve their own version of success. Ana hopes that her interviews with women in all stages of their career will help others reach goals they thought were unachievable, and will give them a realistic expectation of what it takes to get to their dream job – while breaking many glass ceilings along the way! As a huge bookworm (and leader of two book clubs in Vancouver, Canada), she was very excited to get the chance to interview author Jodi Picoult. Ana and Jodi discuss career, including Jodi’s inspirations, best and worst career advice, mentors and much more.

Website: anamilosavic.com

Instagram: @amilosavic


Interview with Jodi Picoult

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Occupation:
Writer

Why do you do what you do?
I can’t not write.

What’s your current dream job?
To be a writer… and a Broadway librettist.

Tell us what your average day looks like.
I get up and run for a few miles, then go up to my computer and edit my way through whatever I was writing yesterday, and when I get to a blank spot I keep writing. I continue until about 4 pm.

It’s great to see that you are living your dream job! Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still writing novels, and perhaps winning a Tony.

Amazing, I have zero doubt! Have you had any big career struggles so far?
It was very hard, at the beginning, to write what I wanted to write – fiction that asked moral questions. There were not many writers doing such and finding an audience was a slow climb. Also, being categorized as commercial fiction or women’s fiction has prevented people from taking my work seriously.

And what has been your biggest career win so far?
11 consecutive #1 NYT bestsellers.

Now that’s a career win! Is there any career advice you’ve received that you still hold on to?
Don’t write about the dinosaurs ’til they become oil – in other words, don’t write about what happens to you until you have time to process your emotions and regard the incident from an objective POV.

What about bad career advice?
Write that sells.

You have achieved so much already! What is the one thing you are most proud of?
My three children, who are all changing the world in various ways.

Is there one person that has inspired you in your career?
My editor, Jennifer Hershey – who is extraordinary at her craft – and my publicist, Susan Corcoran, who makes my life so much easier.

I think mentors are so important to a successful career. Do you have any mentors?
My former professor, Mary Morris, who taught me everything I know.

When do you feel the most confident?
When I’m standing in front of an audience talking about one of my books.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Currently coveting: Chocolate.

Favorite way to sweat: Hiking.

Favorite book: Too many to name.

Morning person or night owl? Morning person.

Favorite food: Chocolate ice cream.

Favorite city: London.

You can see Ana’s full interview here!

*Disclaimer: This content was sent to me by Ana Milosavic to post on my blog.*


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Book Review: Suffering Ends When Awakening Begins

SO I heard you were looking for another book review. Surprise! I have one right here 🙂 This one is called Suffering Ends When The Awakening Begins by Robert Crown.

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Synopsis: How Does a Child’s Life Change When His Mother Tries to Murder Him? It’s one of the most profound betrayals imaginable, and it can follow the victim into adulthood, into all he does with his life, tainting his sense of self and his relationships with others. How does a man’s life change when he discovers that with his thoughts, his imagination, and his ability to listen to his higher self, he has the power to overcome the devastating events of his past and build a new life and a family?

This book was a true story about the author’s life and all the hardships he endured while growing up. The first chapter had me captivated from the very first line as it starts off with his mom almost killing him as a child. The worst part was that she was trying to do it intentionally! I felt like I was reading a script from CSI where they examined a crime scene and kind of put together what happened before the victims became the victims. I honestly feel like I would be very messed up for the rest of my life if this happened to me. So kudos to the author for turning out ok after that.

I kept reading and thinking, “wow this guy can’t catch a break”. There were so many circumstances in his life that just didn’t work out for him. The pros were that this author had me reading constantly. I was so intrigued and captivated by his life that I didn’t want to put the book down. He has a good message at the end of the book that is worth reading it for.

The cons were that there were some small spelling mistakes. Not a crazy amount, but just enough to bug me. Luckily they were spread out so it was easy to pass off.

*Update: Apparently I had an earlier version of the book before the revisions so these little spelling mistakes have been corrected.*

Overall, I would recommend this book if you want an inspiring story about a guy that managed to turn his life around after hitting rock bottom.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and give it a rating on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.


There is also another book on the block that you should check out if you haven’t heard of it yet. It is called Addicted To Hate by Lucia Mann and it is a great one! You can find it on Amazon or on her website: www.luciamann.com!

 

Addicted to Hate - Front Cover

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Book Review – Mermaids Are Real

You get a book review! YOU get a book review. We have another one for you guys over here at Breakeven Books. This one is called Mermaids Are Real: The Mystiq Prong by Bo Wu.

Synopsis: Benji Fisher has spent the first twelve years of his life growing up in a small fishing town, Topside. He’s gotten used to the gang of dolphins who follow him on his surfboard and the voices he hears under the water; odd things that have, in their repetition, become part of normal everyday life.

However, none of that prepares him for the recruitment speech he gets from an octopus named Octavius and three of the dolphins the night before his thirteenth birthday.

What would you do if your ‘calling’ in life required you to take a leap/dive of faith? Would you take the plunge?

This is a fantastic book. If I had to say a book that it was like, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan comes to mind. This series was just magical and I had the same feeling of magic and adventure when reading this book. It was mainly set underwater which appealed to me as I love the water and was called a fish as a child.

The main character Benji is very lovable. He is just trying to figure out his life at 13 years old and is then thrown into an entirely new world that he now needs to adapt to and become a part of. He reminds me of a young Aquaman (DC Comics). There are so many interesting aspects of the underwater world that this author has created and it was a pleasure to explore and learn the history of the Aquari.

Once again, I quite enjoyed the antagonist of the story. For some reason, I always like them the most. He demonstrated a strong leadership and badass attitude towards leading his people and ruling over the Topsiders (the people on land).

There isn’t really anything bad I can say about the book. The author gets a little too descriptive at times about the surroundings or the process of an action being portrayed but other than this small detail, it is a great book. I would recommend it to YA readers and anyone who wants a good old classic adventure on the bottom of the ocean.

While reading this book, I found it rare that I actually wanted to put it down. And I was excitedly telling my coworker about it while on our lunch break. It is a book that sticks with you and leaves you wanting more.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads and the author on Facebook and Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.


Book Review: Lessons From Life

New review up! This one was called Lessons From Life: Four Keys to living with more Meaning, Purpose, and Success! by Steven Darter.

Synopsis: In his deeply personal and inspirational memoir, Steve Darter asks himself the question: What is the purpose of my life? Using incredibly entertaining storytelling, Steve takes you on a journey of emotion, reflection, and insight that encourages you to think about how to live with more meaning, purpose, and success at any age–young, old, or in between.

To me, this book was just ok. I don’t know if it was because it was a self-help style of book or what but I just didn’t feel like I gained much from reading it. That being said, it is not bad. I just didn’t feel like I really got into the book like I would have liked to.

The author is very genuine in his stories about his life and how he overcame certain struggles or how he dealt with insecurities. The stories about when he was a child were entertaining. His love for his family is very strong and he represents that in a lot of his “lessons”.

I lost interest when it started to get a bit pushy with the religious stuff. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and practicing their faith but when it is pushed on others, that tends to put me off. And I found a lot of the stories got very repetitive. In the second half of the book, I would be reading one of the stories that accompany the lessons and would think, “I have already read this” or “I already know this from earlier”.

One quote I did like from this book was

The mind can be a wonderful tool if you allow it.

It is a good concept for a book. I just believe that it could use a little more fleshing out. This may also be a generational thing. I brought this book home with me when I was visiting for Thanksgiving and my mom saw this book on the coffee table. She picked it up and sat down for a bit, flipped through the chapters and read it for about 20 minutes. She seemed to like it a lot so maybe this book is just better suited for an older generation (sorry for calling you old mom).

Book Rating: 2.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.


Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s the holiday season in Canada where we eat our fill of turkey and drink our fill of wine, spirits or in my case … beer :). I love this weekend in October because I get to see my family and enjoy some nice rest and relaxation in the home that I grew up in. Usually, we go for a small hike or walk through the woods but the weather has been pretty drizzly so far this weekend so it has been spent inside with board games and the smells of delicious food filling the house.

I have been marking papers and reading a little bit but mainly catching up with old friends. I hope everyone out there is having a good Thanksgiving and are thankful for the important people they have in their lives. This applies to you too my American friends but in November 😛

I am thankful for my family and the friends that are pretty much family to me. For the people that just bring a smile to my face. And for all those books out there still waiting to be read 🙂

So with that, Happy Thanksgiving! Tell me about your Thanksgiving traditions if you have any in the comments below.


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